New York Yankees: The New James Paxton and What He Changed

John Zarnowski
New York Yankees, James Paxton
Apr 16, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton (65) reacts during the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees traded for James Paxton last year that sent their best pitching prospect Justus Sheffield to the Seattle Mariners. In Seattle, Paxton was regarded as one of the premier pitchers in the league. This season in the Bronx, Paxton has struggled up until the month of August.

Paxton’s last two starts truly show the type of pitcher he is. Going up against the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers’ lineup, Paxton went six and two quarters with 11 strikeouts. He limited the intimidating lineup to just five hits while dominating Cody Bellinger with three strikeouts. His next start against his old team, the Mariners, Paxton went five full innings while fanning four. In both outings, he allowed a total of four runs which has dropped his ERA significantly.

What’d he change?

James Paxton knows when to throw what kind of pitch. He knows how to set up a batter to get a swing-and-miss when he needs one. He’s also mastered the lost art of tunneling. Tunneling is best described as two pitches that travel down the same trajectory long enough to look the same. The pitch gets to the “decision point” of the batter and then breaks. It’s easier to see this rather than explain, so watch below for an example:

Paxton has always been a dominant pitcher, however, he’s just changed how often he throws his pitches. He now throws his slider to set up his fastball, and now sprinkles in a changeup just enough to have the batter thinking more in the box. Here’s a perfect example of Paxton utilizing the art of tunneling: